Linux, the open-source operating system that is a popular alternative to Microsoft Windows, has enjoyed a growing user base and a choice of hundreds of different distributions. At its core, Linux consists of a kernel, libraries and various applications. A distribution is a particular combination of these elements put together in a particular way that is appealing to different types of users. A relatively new distribution to enter the scene is called Ubuntu, and it has quickly become the most widely downloaded flavor of Linux.
What makes Ubuntu unique? How has it so quickly become so popular? First, Ubuntu is completely free and promises to always be that way. Many other distributions are also free, but unlike some of them, Ubuntu does not offer any paid subscriptions, paid premium editions or extra software for a fee. Ubuntu is Ubuntu and everybody gets the same package at no cost. Secondly, Ubuntu is very user friendly and is within reach of a wide array of computer users. Installation is a snap. In fact, somebody interested in trying Ubuntu can boot the system directly from the CD and try out the experience without installing anything on the computer. If they like the system and want to go ahead with the installation, double-clicking an icon on the desktop starts the process. Finally, Ubuntu’s desktop environment is rich and very configurable.
By default it uses the Gnome desktop, one of the most popular and supported desktops in the Linux community. Alternately, if a user favors KDE, Gnome’s closest rival, they can install the Ubuntu KDE package, affectionately known as Kubuntu.
Another feature of Ubuntu that is essential for a widely used Linux distribution is a great package management system. Package management provides users with an easy way to update existing software and download new programs. Ubuntu uses apt-get, a mature and easy-to-use package management system first used by Debian GNU/Linux. Downloading and installing software is so easy with apt-get that even the most neophyte user shouldn’t have a problem. Keeping Ubuntu up-to-date is made even easier with its Software Updates system that alerts the user when new versions of software is available for anything that is currently installed. Similar to Windows Updates, this enables the user to stay current and address any security issues in a timely manner.
Ubuntu’s philosophy, “Linux for Human Beings,” is reflected in its online community. Through a huge wiki, discussion forums and a host of volunteers there is a ton of support for Ubuntu. In addition to these resources on the main Ubuntu site, there are many other Ubuntu-related web sites that provide helpful software and information for Ubuntu users. The Ubuntu community tends to be open, friendly and bent on making the Linux experience as rich and pleasant as possible for everybody.
There have been many Linux distributions over the years that have incorporated some of the elements that have made Ubuntu such a success, but none that has appealed to so many people and has risen to the top of the heap so quickly. Ubuntu elegantly brings all the best Linux desktop elements together in a seamless user experience, bringing the rebel operating system one step closer to encroaching on Window’s dominance of computers worldwide.